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117 Years of Harley Davidson Motorcycle History

1901
Harley Davidson Motorcycle History 1901

Arthur Davidson and his childhood friend William Harley sought a way to take the work out of bicycling by building a motorized bicycle that would be available to the average citizen, thereby enabling people to travel even more quickly and easily. At that time, the motorized bicycle had been built in Europe and, on a limited basis, in the United States for about 10 years, but they were not generally available to the public.

1903
Harley Davidson Motorcycle History 1903

The Harley-Davidson motor company is formed by William S. Harley, Arthur Davidson and his brothers Walter Davidson and William A. Davidson.

Harley-Davidson's first Harley-Davidson motor (power-cycle) bicycle is produced. It had a 3-1/8 inch bore and 3-1/2 inch stroke. The factory in which they worked was a 10 x 15-foot wooden shed with the words "Harley-Davidson Motor Company" crudely scrawled on the door.

Henry Meyer of Milwaukee, a schoolyard pal of William S. Harley and Arthur Davidson, buys one of the 1903 models directly from the founders.

1904
Harley Davidson Motorcycle History 1904

The first Harley-Davidson Dealer, C.H. Lang of Chicago, IL, opens for business and sells one of the first three production Harley-Davidson motorcycles ever made (in 1905).

1905
Harley Davidson Motorcycle History 1905

On July 4th, a Harley Davidson motorcycle wins a 15 mile race in Chicago with a time of 19:02. In Milwaukee, the first full-time employee is hired.

The first real Harley-Davidson motorcycle is built. It has a 24.74ci motor that was capable of 25mph.

1906
Harley Davidson Motorcycle History 1906

A new factory, measuring 28 x 80 feet, is built on the Chestnut St. site, later renamed Juneau Avenue. Staff size is increased to six full-time employees. Also, the first motorcycle catalog is produced by the Company and the nickname "Silent Gray Fellow" is used for the first time

1907
Harley Davidson Motorcycle History 1907

William A. Davidson, brother to Arthur and Walter Davidson, quits his job as tool foreman for the Milwaukee Road railroad and joins the Motor Company.

Harley-Davidson Motor Company is incorporated on September 17th. The stock is split four ways among the four founders, and staff size has more than doubled from the previous year to eighteen employees. Factory size is doubled as well. Dealer recruitment begins, targeting the New England region.

1908
Harley Davidson Motorcycle History 1908

Walter Davidson scores a perfect 1,000 points at the 7th Annual Federation of American Motorcyclists Endurance and Reliability Contest. Three days after the contest, Walter sets the FAM economy record at 188.234 miles per gallon. Word of Harley-Davidson's extremely tough motorcycle spreads rapidly.

The first Harley-Davidson motorcycle sold for police duty is delivered to the Detroit, MI Police Department.

1909
Harley Davidson Motorcycle History 1909

The six-year-old Harley-Davidson Motor Company introduces its first V-twin powered motorcycle and is used in the Model 5-D. With a displacement of 49.5 cubic inches, the bike produces seven horsepower. The image of two cylinders in a 45-degree configuration would fast become one of the most enduring icons of Harley-Davidson history. Also available for the first time from the Motor Company are spare parts for motorcycles.

1910
Harley Davidson Motorcycle History 1910

The famed "Bar & Shield" logo is used for the first time. It was designed by the Davidson brothers' Aunt, Jane Davidson. It was officially registered with the U.S. Patent Office in 1911.

At least seven different first place finishes are captured at races, endurance contests and hillclimbs across America. All seven winners are riding Harley-Davidson motorcycles.

1911

The "F-head" engine becomes a workhorse of the Harley-Davidson motorcycle until 1929.

1912
Harley Davidson Motorcycle History 1912

Construction begins on what will become the six story headquarters and main factory building at Juneau Ave. in Milwaukee. A separate Parts and Accessories Department is formed.

Harley-Davidson exports motorcycles to Japan, marking the first ever sales outside of the U.S. Dealer network grows to over 200 nationwide.

1913
Harley Davidson Motorcycle History 1913

The Racing Department is formed, with William Ottaway as its first Assistant Engineer to racing engineer William S. Harley.

The Forecar delivery van is offered for the first time.

1914
Harley Davidson Motorcycle History 1914

The Two-Speed rear hub transmission is introduced for two years only in the Model 10F. Patented by William S. Harley, it was effective but discontinued in order to further improve drivetrain function in 1915 with a three-speed design.

Factory sidecars available. Clutch and brake pedals now available on F-head singles and twins.

Harley-Davidson Motor Company formally enters motorcycle racing this year. The first Racing Engineer is William S. Harley. Within a few short years, team Harley-Davidson is referred to informally as the "Wrecking Crew" because of their incredible dominance of the sport.

1915

Three speed sliding-gear transmissions with final and primary drive on the same side available.

1916
Harley Davidson Motorcycle History 1916

The first issue of The Harley-Davidson Enthusiast is published.

1917
Harley Davidson Motorcycle History 1917

Roughly one-third of all Harley-Davidson motorcycles produced are sold to the U.S. military (with Triumph Motorcycles supplying the U.K. and French forces)). The Quartermasters School, a department of Harley-Davidson devoted to training military mechanics on Harley-Davidson motorcycles, opens for business in July. It will later become the Service School.

1918
Harley Davidson Motorcycle History 1918

Almost half of all Harley-Davidson motorcycles produced are sold for use by the U.S. military in World War I. At War's end, it is estimated that the Army used some 20,000 motorcycles in their efforts, most of which were Harley-Davidsons. One day after the signing of the Armistice, Corporal Roy Holtz of Chippewa Falls, Wis., is the first American to enter Germany. He is riding a Harley-Davidson.

1919
Harley Davidson Motorcycle History 1919

The 37 cubic inch opposed twin cylinder Sport 19W model is introduced and gains great popularity overseas. Unique not only for the cylinder configuration, which was directly opposed and flat, the Sport quickly earns a reputation for being uncommonly quiet

1920
Harley Davidson Motorcycle History 1920

Harley-Davidson motorcycles can be purchased from over 2,000 dealers in 67 countries worldwide.

Leslie "Red" Parkhurst breaks 23 speed records on a Harley-Davidson 61 cubic inch racing motorcycle. The "hog" association starts when the racing team's mascot, a pig, is carried on a victory lap after each race won by the team.

1922
Harley Davidson Motorcycle History 1922

The first 74 cubic inch V-twin engine is introduced on the JD and FD models. Harley-Davidson dealerships are now found in sixty-seven countries.

1925
Harley Davidson Motorcycle History 1925

Gas tanks on all models now have a distinct teardrop shape. This basic appearance is set for all subsequent Harley-Davidson motorcycles.

Joe Petrali begins racing for Harley-Davidson. He would become one of the most successful dirt-track racers for Harley-Davidson, and one of the most successful racers of all time.

1926
Harley Davidson Motorcycle History 1926

Single-cylinder motorcycles are again sold by Harley-Davidson for the first time since 1918. Models A, AA, B, and BA are available in side-valve and overhead-valve engine configurations.

1928
Harley Davidson Motorcycle History 1928

The first Harley-Davidson two cam engine is made available to the public on the JD series motorcycles. The bike is capable of top speeds between 85 - 100 mph.

Front wheel brakes are now available on all Harley-Davidson motorcycles.

1929
Harley Davidson Motorcycle History 1929

The 45 cubic inch V-twin engine (later to be known as the "flathead") is introduced on the D model. The engine proves to be so reliable that variations of it are available on Harley-Davidson motorcycles as late as 1973.

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1930
Harley Davidson Motorcycle History 1930

Bill Davidson, Jr. wins the Jack Pine endurance contest with 997 points of 1,000. All individual class winners are riding Harley-Davidson motorcycles.

1932
Harley Davidson Motorcycle History 1932

The 45 cubic inch-driven, three-wheeled Servi-car begins its 41 year run as a popular commercial and police vehicle.

In dirt track racing, Harley-Davidson racer Joe Petrali begins a five-year consecutive streak of winning the AMA Grand National Championship. Petrali also wins the National Hill-Climb Championships for 1932 to 1935.

1933
Harley Davidson Motorcycle History 1933

An art-deco "eagle" design is painted on all gas tanks. This marks the beginning of graphic designs on Harley-Davidson motorcycles (with the exception of previously special order-only paint schemes). This styling decision was made in part to stimulate the low sales numbers caused by the Great Depression.

1935
Harley Davidson Motorcycle History 1935

Alfred Child, the company's agent in Asia, realizes that currency exchange rates are killing sales in Japan. He convinces the company to license production of its motorcycles in Japan. The Sankyo Seiyakyo Corporation purchases tooling, dies and machinery and begins producing Harley "clones". They are sold under the name Rikuo, which means "King of the Road."

1936
Harley Davidson Motorcycle History 1936

Harley-Davidson introduces the EL, an overhead valve, 61 cubic inch powered bike. With increased horsepower and bold styling changes, the motorcycle quickly earns the nickname of "Knucklehead," due to the shape of its rocker boxes. The same year, the Motor Company introduces a 80 cubic inch side valve engine.

1937
Harley Davidson Motorcycle History 1937

The W-series models are introduced. They are fitted with a 45 cubic inch engine whose most notable feature was the recirculating oil system, which greatly reduced maintenance. Earlier motorcycles had been equipped with a total-loss oil system which made the rider responsable for checking the oil, adjusting the oil pump or even using the hand oil pump to properly lubricate the engine while riding. The US Army ordered the 1937 WL Model to replace the Model RL Motorcycle then in use.

Joe Petrali sets a new land speed record of 136.183 mph on a modified Harley-Davidson 61 cubic inch overhead valve-driven motorcycle. The same day, he also breaks the record for 45 cubic inch engine motorcycles.

Co-founder, William A. Davidson passes away.

1938
Harley Davidson Motorcycle History 1938

The first Sturgis Rally. Known then as the Black Hills Classic and organized by the Jack Pine Gypsies Motorcycle Club and Clarence "Pappy" Hoel (who owned the Sturgis Indian Dealership). It was held on August 14th with a race of 9 participants and a small audience.

1941
Harley Davidson Motorcycle History 1941

As America dives into World War II. Production of civilian motorcycles is almost entirely suspended in favor of military production. Harley-Davidson produces close to 60,000 WLA models among other H-D and other collaborative models for the U.S and Allied forces.

1942
Harley Davidson Motorcycle History 1942

Co-founder, Walter Davidson passes away.

1943
Harley Davidson Motorcycle History 1943

Harley-Davidson receives the first of its four Army-Navy "E" Awards for excellence in wartime production.

Co-founder and chief engineer William S. Harley dies.

1945
Harley Davidson Motorcycle History 1945

World War II ends. Wasting no time, production of civilian motorcycles resumes in November. During the war, many servicemen who had their first exposure to motorcycles and/or Harley-Davidson while overseas buy their own when they return home.

1947
Harley Davidson Motorcycle History 1947

Attendees at the year's Dealers Convention in Milwaukee are given a train ride to a "secret destination," which turns out to be the newly purchased plant on Capitol Drive. The plant was formerly the A.O. Smith Propeller Plant, created during the war. Harley-Davidson uses the plant as a large machine shop, shipping the new parts to Juneau Ave. for final assembly.

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1948
Harley Davidson Motorcycle History 1948

New features are added to the 61 and 74 overhead valve engines, including aluminum heads and hydraulic valve lifters. Also new are the one piece, chrome plated rocker covers shaped like cake pans. The nickname "Panhead" only seemed logical.

Production of American-made lightweight motorcycles begins with the model S. Various versions will be sold until 1966.

1949
Harley Davidson Motorcycle History 1949

A year after receiving the "Panhead" engine, the FL was given a new front suspension featuring hydraulically damped telescopic forks. During their debut, Harley referred to their new suspension systems as the "hydraulic front ends". Harley's marketing department promoted the new suspension systems by renaming the big twin models "Hydra Glide".

1950
Harley Davidson Motorcycle History 1950

Arthur Davidson, one of the four original founders of Harley-Davidson, dies at the age of 69 in a car accident.

1952
Harley Davidson Motorcycle History 1952

The side-valve K model is introduced with a 45 cubic inch unit-construction (integrated engine & transmission) motor to compete with smaller, sportier motorcycles (specifically the Triumph Speed Twin and Triumph Thunderbird) coming from Great Britain. The K will eventually evolve into the Sportster.

1953
Harley Davidson Motorcycle History 1953

Harley-Davidson celebrates its 50th Anniversary in style. An attractive logo is created, depicting a "V" in honor of the engine which had brought the Company so far, with a bar overlaid reading "Harley-Davidson" and the words, above and below, "50 years--American made." A medallion version of this logo is placed on the front fenders of the 1954 models.

The movie The Wild One, staring Marlon Brando and Lee Marvin is released. In the movie Lee Marvin rode a 1950 Harley-Davidson Hydra Glide. Marlon Brando rides his personal motorcycle, a 1952 Triumph Thunderbird.

The aging WR and WRTT production racers are no match for the British 500s now invading the dirt tracks and road courses in the United States. The H-D racing department counters with a new racer, the KR. Like the WR, it is a 750cc flat-head.

1954
Harley Davidson Motorcycle History 1954

Dirt track racer Joe Leonard wins the AMA Grand National Championship. Over the next eight years, the Grand National Championship will be won by Harley-Davidson racers.

1955
Harley Davidson Motorcycle History 1955

This year begins a seven-year consecutive run of victories at the Daytona 200. The victories will be shared by racers Brad Andres, Johnny Gibson, Joe Leonard and Roger Reiman. All ride Harley-Davidson KR models. Reiman's victory in 1961 is on the new speedway course.

1957
Harley Davidson Motorcycle History 1957

First year of the Sportster. It features a 55 cubic inch overhead valve engine. The Sportster rplaced the K model which was created to compete with Triumph's 500cc Speed Twin and BSA's 500cc A7. The 1957 Harley Sportster had iron barrels and heads, a 7.5:1 compression ratio, and made 40 horsepower at 5,500rpm.

1958
Harley Davidson Motorcycle History 1958

The FL Duo-Glide motorcycle introduced a genuine rear suspension system, finally giving riders of the big Harleys smoother, modern ride. Finally, after decades of relying only on a sprung saddle for "rear" suspension, the big Harleys adopted a swingarm with coil-over shocks in 1958. With that, the Hydra-Glide became the Duo-Glide, upping the ante in the touring market.

1960
Harley Davidson Motorcycle History 1960

Harley-Davidson purchases a half interest in Aeronatica-Macchi, forming Aermacchi Harley-Davidson, a European division that will produce small, single cylinder motorcycles.

The Harley-Davidson Topper motor scooter is introduced and is the only scooter platform the Motor Company ever produced.

1961
Harley Davidson Motorcycle History 1961

Importation of the Aermacchi Harley-Davidson Sprint. It was a 250cc horizontal single two stroke single motor built entirely by Aermacchi but re-badged as a Harley Davidson for North American sales.

1962
Harley Davidson Motorcycle History 1962

Harley-Davidson purchases 60 percent of the stock in the Tomahawk Boat Manufacturing Company. H-D recognizes the rising relevance of fiberglass in motorcycle production, and begins manufacturing its own components. As a result, the Tomahawk Division is established and is operational as a Harley-Davidson facility by 1963.

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1964
Harley Davidson Motorcycle History 1964

The three-wheeled Servi-Car becomes the very first Harley-Davidson motorcycle to receive an electric starter.

Roger Reiman wins the AMA Grand National Championship for Harley-Davidson. Reiman also scores the first of back-to-back Daytona 200 victories on a 750 KR.

1965
Harley Davidson Motorcycle History 1965

The Electra-Glide replaces the Duo-Glide and is updated with electric starter. The Electra-Glide is the first FL available with electric start (but also kept a kickstarter). It is also the last year for the Panhead. Buyers also had a choice of either hand or foot shifting. H-D felt that the foot shift would appeal to new riders and those used to British bikes, while the old-style hand shift would be favored by the company's hard-core base of loyal riders.

1966
Harley Davidson Motorcycle History 1966

The first of the 74 cubic inch 45 degree "Shovelhead" engines is introduced on the Electra-Glide models, replacing the Panhead. The name was derived from the appearance of the rocker box covers. Because these covers bring to mind the head of coal shovels when inverted.

1969
Harley Davidson Motorcycle History 1969

Although Harley-Davidson stock is publicly traded, it is still a relatively closely held corporation. The shareholders - perhaps sensing that the Japanese invasion is about to open a new front in the heavyweight category, with the Honda CB750 Four - sell the nearly bankrupt company to the American Machine and Foundry Company for an undisclosed amount of money. AMF has hitherto been known to the American consumer as a maker of bowling balls, but it is in fact a large, diversified manufacturer.

Mert Lawill wins the AMA Grand National Championship for team Harley-Davidson.

1970
Harley Davidson Motorcycle History 1970

In consideration of new AMA rules for Class C racing, a new Sportster-based motorcycle, the XR-750 racer is introduced.

On the Bonneville salt flats near Wendover, Utah, racer Cal Rayborn breaks the world record for land speed set by a motorcycle. The vehicle is a sixteen foot streamliner powered by a single Sportster engine, and averages just over 265 mph

1971
Harley Davidson Motorcycle History 1971

In response to the customizing craze, Harley-Davidson introduces the FX 1200 Super Glide, which combined a sporty front end (similar to that of the XL series) with the frame and powertrain of the FL series. A new class of motorcycle, the cruiser, is born.

1973
Harley Davidson Motorcycle History 1973

Motorcycle production is upgraded when all assembly operations are moved to a modern 400,000 square foot plant in York, PA. All other production operations remain in Milwaukee and Tomahawk. The Capitol Drive plant in Milwaukee begins production of engines.

1975
Harley Davidson Motorcycle History 1975

The first of four more consecutive years of Harley-Davidson AMA Grand National Championships in dirt track racing. Gary Scott wins in 1975. The following three years are won by racing legend Jay Springsteen.

1977
Harley Davidson Motorcycle History 1977

Harley-Davidson introduces the FXS Low Rider to the public in Daytona Beach. With drag style handlebars, unique engine and paint treatments, the Low Rider lives up to its name by placing the rider in a lowered seating position than was typical.

Willie G. Davidson's dynamic version of the Sportster, the Cafe Racer, is released.

1979
Harley Davidson Motorcycle History 1979

The 1,200cc Shovelhead OHV V-twin with four-speed transmission FXEF "Fat Bob" is introduced. It's called fat because of its dual gas tanks, and bob on account of its bobbed fenders.

1980
Harley Davidson Motorcycle History 1980

The FLT is introduced. It has rubber-isolated drivetrain and an engine and five-speed transmission which are hard bolted together.

Belts come back into fashion: a Kevlar belt replaces the chain as the final drive on some models. The belt is cleaner running, and needs less adjustments and maintenance. It isn't long before belt final drive is standard on all Harley-Davidson motorcycles.

In honor of the historic Sturgis motorcycle rally, the FXB Sturgis model is released, employing belt drive, black chrome appointments and 80 cubic inch engine. Also introduced is the FXWG Wide Glide.

1981
Harley Davidson Motorcycle History 1981

After years of AMF mismanagement, Harley-Davidson has lost almost all customer loyalty and profits are in freefall. When a group of thirteen company executives led by Vaughn Beals offers to buy the division for $75 million, AMF quickly agrees. Beals leads an amazing corporate turnaround. He funds new product development and implements world-class quality control. The phrase "The Eagle Soars Alone" becomes a rallying cry.

1982
Harley Davidson Motorcycle History 1982

The FXR/FXRS Super Glide II are introduced, featuring a rubber-isolated, five-speed powertrain.

The Materials As Needed (MAN) application (a just-in-time inventory system) is introduced to production. Generally, this means that parts and raw materials are purchased and built only as they are required. This dramatically lowers production costs and improves quality.

Erik Buell leaves an R&D job at Harley-Davidson to build his own race bike.

1983
Harley Davidson Motorcycle History 1983

The Harley Owners Group (H.O.G.) is formed.

Harley-Davidson successfully petitions the International Trade Commission (ITC) for tariff relief, which is granted April 1, 1983. The tariff, scheduled to end five years later, is placed on all imported Japanese motorcycles 700cc or larger as a response to Japanese motorcycle manufacturers stockpiling inventories of unsold motorcycles in the United States.

1984
Harley Davidson Motorcycle History 1984

The 1340cc V2 Evolution engine appears on five models. Although it's been in development since the AMF era, the motor proves the newly independent company has turned the corner in terms of build quality. It is far more reliable and oil-tight.

The Softail, which features concealed rear suspension and evokes the rigid-framed hogs of 30 or 40 years ago, meets with commercial success.

1986
Harley Davidson Motorcycle History 1986

Harley-Davidson diversifies with the acquisition of the Holiday Rambler motorhome company.

Following the original Harley-Davidson Softail came the Heritage Softail in 1986 which recalled the Harley-Davidson Hydra-Glide of the 1950s using styling touches such as aluminum fork covers, chrome headlight nacelle and chrome front wheel hubcap.

1987
Harley Davidson Motorcycle History 1987

The company makes its Initial Public Offering. Stock is traded on the NYSE, with the ticker symbol of HOG. The company petitions the ITC to relax the tariff on imported motorcycles, a year before it was scheduled to lapse. The move serves notice that Harley-Davidson is capable of competing on a level playing field, despite the fact that the Japanese companies now all make V-Twin cruisers that compete directly with the American offerings.

Harley-Davidson begins the "Buy Back Program," for the XLH 883 Sportster, which offers full trade-in value within two years on either a model FL or FX.

Buell releases the RR1000 (Battle Twin), featuring a Harley-Davidson XR1000 engine.

1988
Harley Davidson Motorcycle History 1988

During Harley's 85th Anniversary, the 1988 FXSTS Softail Springer was one of three models selected to wear commemorative paint and badges.

For the 85th Anniversary celebration, Harley-Davidson has a Homecoming in Milwaukee, attended by over 60,000 enthusiasts.

1989
Harley Davidson Motorcycle History 1989

Buell releases the RS1200 powered by the Harley-Davidson 1200cc Evolution Sportster engine.

1993
Harley Davidson Motorcycle History 1993

Harley-Davidson buys minority interest in Buell Motorcycles Company.

The Motor Company celebrates its 90th Anniversary in Milwaukee with a Family Reunion. An estimated 100,000 people ride in a parade of motorcycles.

The 1993 Harley-Davidson FXDWG Wide Glide motorcycle was specially designed for Harley's 90th anniversary, but unlike the original 1980 Wide Glide, it had a silent-running, maintenance-free belt drive.

1994
Harley Davidson Motorcycle History 1994

Harley-Davidson enters Superbike racing with the introduction of the VR1000, a dual overhead cam, liquid-cooled motorcycle.

The classically-styled FLHR Road King is introduced.

1995
Harley Davidson Motorcycle History 1995

The 30th Anniversary Ultra Classic Electra Glide becomes the first production Harley-Davidson motorcycle to include sequential port electronic fuel injection.

1996
Harley Davidson Motorcycle History 1996

A new, state-of-the-art Parts and Accessories Distribution Center opens in Franklin, WI. By the beginning of 1997, all inventory is moved from the original warehouse at Juneau Avenue to the new 250,000 sq. ft. facility.

Buell introduces the S1 Lightning streetfighter.

1997
Harley Davidson Motorcycle History 1997

A new 217,000 sq. ft. Product Development Center opens next to the Capitol Drive plant in Milwaukee. The building is dedicated to Willie G. Davidson.

Powertrain Operations at Capitol Drive expanded its capacity by moving FL engine and transmission production to a newly purchased plant located in Menomonee Falls. XL engines and transmissions, as well as Genuine Parts Manufacturing, remain at Capitol Drive.

A new 330,000 sq-ft. plant in Kansas City takes over the production of Sportsters.

1998
Harley Davidson Motorcycle History 1998

Harley-Davidson celebrates its 95th Anniversary. 140,000 plus riders are warmly received by Milwaukee to help with the celebration.

Harley-Davidson buys an additional 49% interest in Buell Motorcycle Company to become the majority owner. Erik Buell is named Chairman of Buell operations.

1999
Harley Davidson Motorcycle History 1999

The Touring and Dyna motorcycle families receive the new Twin Cam 88 engine. The engine design differed considerably from its predecessor the "Evo" although it shared some design elements with the Sportster line. The 88 represents the displacement in cubic inches of the standard engine. The bore is 95.3 mm (3.75 in) and the stroke is 101.6 mm (4.00 in), meaning the displacement is 88 cu in (1,450 cc).

2000
Harley Davidson Motorcycle History 2000

The FXSTD Softail Deuce is introduced to the immediate delight of riders and the motorcycle media. They are outfitted with the Twin Cam 88B engine, a counter-balanced version of the Twin Cam 88.

Buell introduces the Blast, a single-cylinder motorcycle, for the 2000 model year. The Blast receives excellent reviews. It's introduced in tandem with the Rider's Edge Academy of Motorcycling, a beginner's rider course available through Harley-Davidson and Buell dealerships.

Despite spending tens of thousands of dollars in legal fees in the mid-'90s - and having initial success in its efforts to trademark the "potato-potato" sound of Harley motors - the company drops its U.S. Patent Office application. Harley-Davidson's vice president of marketing, Joanne Bischmann, tells reporters, "I've personally spoken with Harley-Davidson owners from around the world and they've told me repeatedly that there is nothing like the sound of a Harley-Davidson motorcycle. If our customers know the sound cannot be imitated, that's good enough for me and for Harley-Davidson."

2001
Harley Davidson Motorcycle History 2001

The VRSCA V-Rod is introduced. The motor (which was designed with major input from Porsche) is fuel injected, has overhead cams, and liquid cooling. It is Harley-Davidson's first motorcycle to combine fuel injection, overhead cams and liquid cooling, and delivers 115 horsepower.

Harley-Davidson Racing announces the latest addition to the team: 17 year old Jennifer Snyder, the first woman to win a national event in the Formula USA National Dirt Track Series.

2002
Harley Davidson Motorcycle History 2002

To commemorate its 100th anniversary, Harley-Davidson launched a traveling exhibition of unprecedented scale. The Open Road Tour included three 20,000-square-foot exhibitions that told the story of the machine, its connection to popular culture, and the company's historic journey over the last 100 years. Artifacts, videos, photographs, and interactive displays were designed to appeal to riders and non-riders alike. Each exhibition had a distinct organizational approach related to its content and its relationship to other exhibits on the site. The circular form that houses the Machine exhibit served as a node around which the Journey and Culture structures, both rectangular in plan, radiate. The design celebrated Harley-Davidson's rich heritage and promising future.

2003
Harley Davidson Motorcycle History 2003

More than 250,000 people come to Milwaukee for the final stop of the Open Road Tour and the Harley-Davidson 100th Anniversary Celebration and Party.

Buell Motorcycle Company unleashes the Lightning XB9S. It features a 60 cubic inch v-twin, aluminum Frame with Uniplanar powertrain vibration isolation system and Showa front and rear suspension.

A Harley-Davidson statue was unveiled in Littleport, Cambridgeshire, to commemorate the centenary of Harley-Davidson. William Harley, the father of the company's co-founder William Sylvester Harley, had been born in Victoria Street, Littleport, in 1835, before emigrating to the United States in 1859

2004
Harley Davidson Motorcycle History 2004

The Sportster family models receive rubber engine mounting, a new frame, and a wider rear tire. The Sportster XL 1200C Sportster Custom and XL Sportster 883 Custom receive a more traditional H-D teardrop style fuel tank.

The FLHRSI Road King Custom is introduced. With its low rear suspension and wide handlebars, the FLHRSI brings a beach look to a classic Harley-Davidson motorcycle.

Andrew Hines of the Screamin' Eagle/Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson drag racing team clinches his first NHRA Powerade Pro Stock Motorcycle Championship at age 21, the youngest champion in NHRA history.

2005
Harley Davidson Motorcycle History 2005

The XL 883L Sportster 883 Low brings a lowered seating position to the Sportster line making the Sportster even more attractive and comfortable to female riders.

The FLSTNI Softail Deluxe adds a sleek look to the Softail line and a paint scheme reminiscent of 1939 Harley-Davidson motorcycles. Also, the FLSTSC/I Softail Springer Classic revives looks from the late 1940s.

Andrew Hines wins his second straight NHRA Powerade Pro Stock Motorcycle Championship. G.T. Tonglet, also of the Screamin' Eagle/Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson team, places second.

Harley-Davidson and the Muscular Dystrophy Association (MDA) mark the 25th anniversary of their partnership.

2006
Harley Davidson Motorcycle History 2006

The first factory 6-speed transmissions are made available on Dyna motorcycles.

The Dyna FXDB/I Street Bob is released.

Harley-Davidson appoints Beijing Feng Huo Lun (FHL) as the first authorized Harley-Davidson dealer on mainland China.

2007
Harley Davidson Motorcycle History 2007

Harley upgrades its Big Twin motor, stroking it out to 96 cubic inches and earning the moniker "Twin Cam 96."

All Harley-Davidson's now come with the 6-speed transmission

The XL 1200N Nightster arrives on the scene with black rims, fork gaiters, and side mount license plate holder.

With the release of the 1125R, Buell breaks free of Harley-Davidson air-cooled engine technology. The new V-Twin motor is designed by Rotax and features all the modern conveniences: liquid cooling, DOHC and fuel injection.

2008
Harley Davidson Motorcycle History 2008

The new FXCWC Rocker is Harley-Davidson's first swingarm-mounted rear fender and 2-into-1 Trick seat.

In time for the 105th Anniversary, the all new Harley-Davidson Museum opens in Milwaukee on July 12. Located at 6th and Canal streets, the Museum showcases hundreds of classic and custom motorcycles, interactive exhibits and never-before-seen films and photographs.

Hundreds of thousands of riders from around the world converge on Milwaukee to celebrate Harley-Davidson's 105th Anniversary. Riders and dealers raise more than $6.7 million for MDA. Entertainment includes the Foo Fighters and Bruce Springsteen.

HOG (Harley Owners Group) celebrates it's 25th Anniversary

2009
Harley Davidson Motorcycle History 2009

Harley-Davidson announces expansion into India.

The first factory three-wheeler in 36 years (since the Servi-Car), the FLHTCUTG Tri Glide Ultra Classic is released.

In the midst of the economic downturn, Harley-Davidson decides to shut down Buell. Since Buell isn't accounted for separately in Harley-Davidson's books, Buell couldn't simply be sold off.

Keith Wandell becomes the first person since 1981 to become CEO of Harley-Davidson who did not had any previous connections to The Motor Company.

2010
Harley Davidson Motorcycle History 2010

The XL Forty-Eight is introduced, recalling the raw, custom Sportsters of earlier days.

Seth Enslow on a Harley-Davidson XR1200 breaks the world record for a long distance motorcycle jump on a Harley-Davidson at 183.7 feet. Previously, the record was proudly held by Bubba Blackwell (1999) and Evel Knievel (1975).

2011
Harley Davidson Motorcycle History 2011

Harley-Davidson streamlines personal customization with H-D1, allowing riders to receive a factory-built custom motorcycle that they design online.

The Wisconsin Department of Transportation has introduced Harley-Davidson branded license plates

2012
Harley Davidson Motorcycle History 2012

The Softail Slim FLS is released. It is a paired down Softtail and is almost a cross between a Sportster and a Softail.

The Sportster Seventy-Two XL1200V is released. It has an authentic '70s chopper attitude meets modern power and premium H-D styling in a bare-bones, lowrider-inspired radical custom.

2013
Harley Davidson Motorcycle History 2013

Harley Debuts the 2013 CVO Breakout along with the new 2013 CVO line. Unlike the other bikes in this CVO series, the Breakout is not just a feature-laden version of an existing model, but a standalone CVO.

2014
Harley Davidson Motorcycle History 2014

Harley-Davidson introduces it first all new designed motorcycles in 14 years, the Street 750 and Street 500. They are liquid-cooled "Revolution X" V-Twin bikes aimed at young urban buyers around the world. Mark-Hans Richer, Harley's senior vice president and chief marketing officer, called the new models, "our path to the future."

2015
Harley Davidson Motorcycle History 2015

Harley-Davidson sponsors the inaugural Flat-Track Racing at ESPN's X Games. The inaugural race is an invitational format, with athletes from around the world receiving the opportunity to be part of the action.

2016
Harley Davidson Motorcycle History 2016

Out to prove that custom truly is king, Harley-Davidson invited dealers to showcase their individuality in the Custom Kings Customization Contest.Dealers from all over the country turned a Sportster motorcycle into a "Custom of One" work of art.

2018 and Beyond
Harley Davidson continues to build and sell the most recognized motorcycle in the world!

Harley Davidson continues to build and sell the most recognized motorcycle in the world!